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Whale Wars: How was the Sea Shepherd's new ship sunk?

Paul Watson, star of "Whale Wars," and his eco-vigliantes at the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have been sailing close to the legal wind for some time, harassing Japanese whalers. Wednesday the Sea Shepherd's $2.5 million speedboat Ady Gil was sunk.

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Watson's methods have not only seen him barred from Iceland and jailed in Norway, but have also turned off former allies. In 1977 he was expelled from Greenpeace, not exactly known as a group of shrinking violets, by a vote of 11-1 (the lone vote in support was Watson's own) and he has publicly feuded with the organization in the years since.

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Senior Greenpeace member Bob Hunter later wrote: "He seemed possessed by too powerful a drive, too unrelenting a desire to push himself front and center, shouldering everyone else aside… He had consistently gone around to other offices, acting out the role of mutineer. Everywhere he went, he created divisiveness." Watson, for his part, has referred to the group as "yellowpeace" for its policy of nonviolence.

Phil Kline, a senior member of Greenpeace's anti-whaling program, declined to discuss Watson or the recent incident in any detail, but he said that Greenpeace's peaceful approach to international whaling gets results. "Greenpeace has been peacefully protesting whaling for 30 years and we don’t condone violence in any form, so there’s a big difference in philosophy there,'' he says. "By maintaining peaceful protest within civil society, Greenpeace has been able to advocate at the policy and government level, not just in the US but around the world. In 30 years, aside from three rogue countries, we have seen an international moratorium on whaling and saved thousands of whales annually. We’re getting close to ending whaling on the planet."

Watson's stated intent in the Southern Ocean is to harass the Japanese fleet to such an extent that it fails to fill it's quota of about 1,000 fin and minke whales and loses money. The Gil was meant to be the center of that approach, since its speed would enable it to catch and stay with the Japanese fleet. But with the boats destruction today, that tactic is gone. Watson's Irwin was about 500 miles away from the incident. While the Barker was on hand, it had to divert to rescue the crew of the sinking boat. The Japanese fleet sped off, likely to be unmolested for the next few days.

While Watson accused the Japanese on Wednesday of drawing first blood, the stated intent for the Gil all along has been get as close to Japanese whalers as possible. In October, Amy Baird, Sea Shepherd's media director, said the group intended to use the Gil as an "interceptor vessel" to speed along with the harpooners as they seek minke and fin whales, and then dart in between them and their prey as they get set to take their shot.

In late December, Sea Shepherd said it used a "photonic disruptor" – a type of laser that can cause temporary blindness – against the same Japanese security vessel it collided with today


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